The very year that Charles Schumer, current chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) graduated from Harvard Law School, he was elected to the New York Assembly. And since then, New York’s Senior Senator has always served in elective office. Indeed, he has never had a job outside politics.
And while Elizabeth Dole, his counterpart at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), has enjoyed a lifetime in government service, it wasn’t until she was well into her 60s that she first ran for public office. To be sure, soon after she married Bob Dole, then-President Gerald Ford tapped the Kansas Senator as his running mate in the 1976 election. Twenty years later, her husband would be the GOP presidential nominee. And while Mrs. Dole, more so than many candidate’s wives, relished campaigning, she never really delighted as much in the rough and tumble of politics as does Schumer.
It’s no wonder the DSCC has outraised the NRSC this year. Schumer, a fierce partisan, really wants to win whereas Dole, not nearly as adversarial as he, just seems to want it to appear she’s doing a good job. Schumer succeeded in recruiting candidates who are giving Republicans runs for their money — even in “red” states. Dole failed to recruit serious challengers for liberal Democrats in such Republican states as North Dakota and Florida, the latter with a not very popular incumbent, far to the left of his constituents.
It is a sign of Republican strength that despite Mrs. Dole’s failures, the GOP has a better-than-even shot of holding the Senate. Yet, had Senate Republicans tapped a more aggressive partisan to match Schumer’s intensity, not only would the GOP be sure of holding the Senate, but even stand a shot of picking up seats, given the vulnerable Democratic seats in Michigan, Minnesota as well as Florida and North Dakota.
It’s not just fundraising and candidate recruitment where Schumer beat Dole. He has shown a similar fire in the belly in public appearances, easily besting his North Carolina colleague last week in a debate on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.
I’m no fan of Chuck Schumer, but do appreciate his energy and his drive. He really wants to win. Republicans will need such partisans if we are to hold the slender majorities we enjoy after this fall’s elections — or win them back should our candidates not be able to overcome the dynamics of the year.